Good friend of Renzaglia wines and prominent ecologist Johannes Bauer, recounts his time spent on our Bella Luna Vineyard picking Chardonnay fruit over the weekend from the unique lens of a passionate conservationist.
A juvenile bearded dragon in the Renzaglia vineyards posing between chardonnay grapes during the harvest Sunday the 5th of March. One suspects the attractions for this beautiful and harmless reptile in the vineyard habitat consists of insect life (for example the big fat hawk moth caterpillars) as well as the grapes with their high content of sugar and the good cover provided by the vine foliage in a vineyard that is minimally sprayed.
One can be sure that the ‘damage’ caused by eating grapes by that territorial and not very abundant species is minor and more than offset by the good it does in devouring insects eating grapes or grape leaves. This species is also big enough especially when adult (up to and more than 600mm) to scare-off even large grape-eating birds, which manage to get under the net. Like the sacrifice of part of the crop to a god, a small ‘sacrifice’ to wildlife is acceptable to most farmers and but a small tribute to a rich and beautiful environment.
Bearded dragons are not very common in our area any longer in cleared out and overgrazed landscapes, especially if dead and down timber is also removed for firewood, are not the only precious wildlife one finds. Even on my property with its plentiful cover and insect food they are special and we suspect that fox predation plays a large role in their scarcity. Apart from the 10 species of Parrots in the area, of which at least four like grapes (Crimson Rosella, King Parrot, Sulphur crested Cockatoo) which make netting a major factor for a good harvest (and a good night’s sleep), we can also see, as we did this afternoon, beautiful, endangered Diamond Firetails whose documented presence in the Renzaglia vineyard, make it an important conservation site.
A vineyard can be an important place for wildlife conservation, especially if its surrounded by a good number of pasture trees and in proximity of extensive forest areas such as the “Wisemans Creek Remnant. Watching the insects, birds, spiders, kangaroos and reptiles in the Renzaglia vineyard it is clear that this small area settled in a cleared yet tree rich and recovering landscape is a quite distinct little vineyard-ecosystem which, throughout the years, provides shelter, a certain stability/protection and a variety of foods to quite a range of species. One of the major determinants for the survival of wildlife & biodiversity in a rural landscape which is dominated by agricultural crops, is the remaining suitability of the crop and the presence of adjoining areas to wildlife (source areas). We know well that in traditional agricultural landscapes, where small areas, diverse crops and great variability through ownership (e.g. a lazy (absent) farmer next to a very busy one) leads to the diversity necessary for an often astonishing number of species to be able to survive in even modern agricultural landscapes. This is of course particularly the case if farmers minimise the application of herbicides and abstain e.g. from using insecticides against this year’s abundant yellow winged grasshoppers, great food for birds and attracting ibises which eat many other things also.